Re: Celeste Fremon’s “Life and Death in Pico-Aliso” [July 27–August 5]. Roman Gonzalez didn’t get a moniker like “Trigger” because he liked Roy Rogers’ horse. And while his journey from back-alley shooter to would-be real estate agent is admirable and a clear signal to his fellow gangsters that they’re not condemned to a gangster life, it demonstrates the absolute powerlessness of government to intervene in a sick gang culture.
Your subhead (“According to the rules of the street, they should have given [Roman] a pass”) implies the liberal fantasy that there’s some honor even among thieves and murderers. But clearly, there aren’t any rules. Ask Herman. Ask the D.A.s in the gang-homicide unit. An 11-month-old baby in a crib got it in the head at point-blank range. Rules? Get serious.
Fremon tells a compelling story, but doesn’t do anything to explain this insane behavior. One could understand if these criminals were fighting over something tangible. The Prohibition-era Chicago gangs fought over liquor, gambling and prostitution franchises. The Mafia today fights over linen, cement and garbage franchises. Russian gangs fight over credit cards, gasoline and heroin. What do these guys fight over? Spray paint on a wall that’s already so painted over that the new tags are illegible. And for an idiotic tagging run, an innocent 10-year-old girl loses her life to a stray bullet. It’s amazing how much anguish all these players expressed when Roman was killed. Fremon completely ignores the anguish that Stephanie Raygoza’s family experienced when she was shot off her bike.
These aren’t just criminals. They’re stupid, cut-rate criminals killing each other and innocents over nothing. So do us a favor and stop writing about this culture in predictable, long-faced tones. Stop depicting the aggressors, reformed and otherwise, as unfortunate victims of society. The writer states that the Pico-Aliso projects “are family. The rest of L.A. is miles and miles of impersonal streets.” Really? A family that won’t reveal the identity of the killers who gunned down a much-beloved son? A family member that professes love after taking a few shots at a guy he grew up with?
Short of imposing martial law, dragging at-risk kids out of their homes, and imposing draconian measures against illegitimacy, drugs and illegal guns, there’s precious little society can do. In the meantime, it would be really great if the Weekly could hold people like this up to the same critical standards as it does the rest of L.A.’s citizens.
If you decide to use this letter, please use only my first name and last initial. I’m sure the TMCs would construe that I was dissing their friend, and clearly they’re capable of taking violent revenge — and perfectly accustomed to doing so, even for something as innocuous as an opinion.
—Tony A. Culver City
It’s not right that Roman, or any other young man, has to pay the price for pure, solid ignorance. Gang members are not born ignorant — one way or another, they just become that way . . .
I really don’t know what to say about the way he passed away. It’s hard to make sense of it. Maybe we shouldn’t.
The sad reality is that Roman is not the first, and won’t be the last, victim of violence.
So much pain, but amidst the hurt, I believe in miracles. Perhaps some other Roman will run across Celeste Fremon’s article and read it, and it will impact his life forever. Even if it’s just one kid, he will end up loving instead of shooting, helping out instead of serving time. It’s time for change.
Best wishes to Roman Gonzalez’s family and friends.
—Veronica Barriga, age 16 Glendale
DANKE FÜR NICHTS, MEIN SCHATZ
In response to “Berlin Journal,” Ben Ehrenreich’s review of the Love Parade in Berlin [A Considerable Town, July 27–August 2], I have only one thing to say: How embarrassing! Three or more references to the Third Reich in a 1,000-word write-up of a large outdoor party is painfully ignorant, and basically unforgivable. So Berlin is the capital of a place where 60 years ago Nazis roamed free; to insinuate that a million kids dancing in place, blowing whistles and getting loaded is related in any way to Hitler’s rallies is so recklessly stupid it brings the blood to a boil, I must admit. When I moved from L.A. to Germany 13 years ago, I also didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on, but I sure as shit didn’t write boneheaded commentaries in a magazine that rightfully prides itself as being liberal and open-minded.
—Ted Green Dusseldorf, Germany
“Berlin Journal” is an ignorant, anti-German article. If Ben Ehrenreich doesn’t like techno, why does he write an article about the Love Parade? If he doesn’t like Germans, what is he doing in Germany? Worst of all, he even doesn’t know that â the Love Parade is a parade of tolerance, unity and love toward others. How about next time Ben Ehrenreich does some historical research on the subject he writes about? Or was he hoping, by mentioning Hitler, that his poor writing would be given more attention? And what is his point, anyway?
—Alex Ciafone Woodland Hills
UND DANKE FÜR “DUNK”
Re: Dave Perera’s “Slam Dunk” [July 20–26]. Getting information out to the public about the struggle to build a recreation center in Little Tokyo is a tremendous help. The center will help bring about economic growth the area needs so desperately. I hope to see more articles on this subject.
—Yuri Watanabe Monterey Park
COMMUNIST BRAINWASHING TECHNIQUES EXPOSED
Re: “Chicken-Hearted” [A Considerable Town, June 29–July 5]. I share with Steven Leigh Morris a “Red baby” childhood with chickens. My parents, card-carrying Hollywood Communists until the McCarthy era, maintained close associations with a group of very successful mid-’60s screenwriters, actors and others, while evading any level of familial bourgeois comfort for us. As part of our ironically unconscious Maoist training, we acquired about half a dozen chickens from the famous “Beehive Farm,” located where Magnolia Boulevard dead-ends into the 405 in the Sherman Oaks flats. A few blocks away, my mother re-constructed a coop from her Costa Rican memory.
While my sisters slept with the hens on their bunk-bed railing, my grandfather called us out to the coop one night. Unlike Mr. Morris, who remains in that innocent stage of man-chicken relations I have since dubbed “bird-brained,” my brothers and I learned the secret art of chicken hypnosis. You hold the chicken on its back and quickly thrust a peace sign, fingertips first, toward the eyes a few times. The bird will remain stunned, motionless for a few minutes. It’s fun and repeatable, and years later, during my initiation as a Babalawao, I was told that my older brother, whose draft classification went from 1-A to 4-F, was unknowingly blessed, because the hypnosis formed the backbone of a ceremony, practiced from Africa to California, that protects the subject from violence. That’s all I can safely say.
—Kevan Jenson Marina del Rey
ALANON IN THE FAMILY
You might want to follow up your July 4 celebration of self-indulgence [“This Is Your Country on Drugs,” July 6–12] with an issue devoted to the families, friends and lovers of the contributors thereto. Let these bystanders tell in their own words what it was like to watch their loved ones traverse the learning curve of recreational drug use. It might make good copy.
—R. Lode Los Angeles
In Steven Leigh Morris’ “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” [August 3–9, 2001], Mike Schlitt was identified as the director of Carnage for the Actors’ Gang; in fact, Tim Robbins was the director.